Disclaimer: this is an original work of fiction. Any resemblance to a person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. It portrays, probably, more than one loving relationship between consenting, adult women. If this is something you have a problem with or if you are not of age, in the state or country you live in, please, read something else. No hard feelings, I promise.
This story is a sequel to “Hindsight”. It is not necessary to read the aforementioned story, but it might make a few things a little clearer.
It had not been the sound of spinning tires on the dusty gravel road that had pulled him from sleep. Nor the veil of dust that was kicked up in the air and slowly settled on the bushes at the side of the road, coating their branches and leaves with a thin layer of grey and red, making them look dry and withered. It had not been the sound of the startled hawk, either, that had gracefully unfolded its powerful wings to push itself away from the pole it had been perched on, basking in the warm Spring sun, until the fast moving vehicle had scared it away. It was a scent that had been carried through the warm air by a gentle breeze, tickling his nose until he opened his eyes and lifted up his head, suddenly aware of his surroundings. The smell was familiar and even though he was an old dog, his ears perked up while he carefully sniffed the air, all traces of sleep disappearing when he growled deep in his chest. Rising up from his spot underneath the old, half-rotten porch he slowly made his way toward the source of the scent. His hind legs were stiff with old age, but in spite of the discomfort he limped as fast as he could, effortlessly finding his way through the high grass, still dry and brittle after the Winter season in which there had been little precipitation. Although his eyesight was practically gone, his ability to smell had not been affected by the long years he had lived. It only took him a few minutes to reach the track where the dust had settled, leaving the road quiet; a desolated strip of gravel cut through the high plains of Oklahoma.
The dog’s low growl turned into a soft whine when he carefully approached that which had drawn his attention. He cautiously sniffed around the large bundle on the side of the road and sneezed when the scent violently tickled his nose. Butting his nose against dark-colored fabric he let out a low bark, using one of his front paws to scratch the rough, dust- covered texture. It did not budge and, with an almost frustrated growl, he tried it again, with the same result. Finally, a small movement made him almost jump back in surprise. Stiffly laying down, he rested his nose, dusted with gray on his front paws, while his eyes stared into the distance. He let out a deep sigh, the short burst of air kicking up a tiny cloud of dust that slowly settled on an elegant brown leather shoe that seemed completely out of place, laying on its side alongside the road.
Absentmindedly, Agent Lauren Darkwolf chewed on the end of a pen, while her eyes studied the report she was holding in her hands. Halfway through, she sighed and rolled her eyes, while her face showed a mixture of amusement and annoyance.
“What a jerk,” she mumbled when she was through and, with a sigh, she put the sheet of paper back on the desk. “But then, we already knew that. Ah, well, more paperwork, I guess.”
Lauren pulled her keyboard toward her and, just when she was about to start typing, her phone rang.
“Darkwolf,” she spoke, while her hand was busy clicking through different programs that had showed up on her screen.
“Lauren, did you get a chance to go through that report yet?”
“I just finished it, sir, and I’m about to reply to it.”
“Ignore it, Lauren,” Jack Wilson said, knowing the moment the words had left his mouth, Lauren’s face would hold an expression of complete bewilderment.
“The guy withdrew the complaint.”
“Why?” Lauren frowned, leaning back in her chair and casting a look through the window.
“Somebody reminded him about the fact he’d pulled a knife on one of our Agents once and that, in the past, he has resisted arrest on more than one occasion. I guess that helped him understand a false accusation against you would not help his case.”
“He did? I didn’t know that,” Lauren drawled, wondering who had been able to dig up that information so fast. She had only arrested the man in question the previous evening. “Who did he pull a knife on?”
“Lawrence,” Jack Wilson answered and immediately Lauren smiled.
“Wrong person to mess with,” she replied and she could hear Jack Wilson chuckle.
“All that meth he’d been producing and using must have affected his brain, otherwise you’d think he would have remembered her,” Jack Wilson sighed, very happy with the arrest his Agents had made the previous evening. It meant another huge meth-lab had been taken off the map and the producers and distributors of the home-made poison would probably be spending a very long time behind bars.
“Well, thanks for letting me know in time, sir. I’m glad I hadn’t start that report yet.”
“Go home, Lauren,” Jack Wilson spoke, knowing how many hours his Agent had put into the case. “Relax and get some rest.”
“I might just do that,” Lauren nodded with a smile. “Thanks.”
“You bet. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Lauren broke the connection and pushed back her chair, determined to leave the building within the next five minutes. She had worked hard the weeks before the team she had been leading had arrested the owner of the meth-lab and most of his distributors. She had put in long hours and the little time she had spent at home had been to get some much needed sleep. She had not been able to spend any time with her family or friends.
Lauren sighed and rubbed her tired eyes. It felt like it had been months since she had seen Maureen. The red-haired Agent had been very busy with her own investigation, which had forced her to travel outside the city a lot. Every now and then the two women had been able to talk on the phone, but those moments had been rare.
Opening the top drawer of her desk, Lauren grabbed her cell phone and stuffed the small device in the pocket of her windbreaker. She would take Jack Wilson’s advice and take the evening off. She would go home, cook a decent meal and, who knows, maybe she would be able to catch Maureen finally. It had been three days since she had been able to talk to her friend and, deep down inside Lauren had to admit she missed the red-head’s company, something she would not dare say out loud. Not yet anyway.
“What? Leaving already?” the receptionist, Sarah Nichols, called out in mock-surprise when Lauren passed her on her way to the exit.
Lauren smiled at the elderly woman and gave her a friendly wave.
“I know, it’s shocking,” Lauren nodded. “I’m almost scared to leave while it’s still light outside.”
“You’ll be fine, sweetie,” Sarah laughed. “I know you can take care of yourself.”
“If not, I’ll call for you,” Lauren promised with a grin, while pushing the door open. In spite of her fatigue, there was a energetic bounce in the tall woman’s step when she stepped into the sunlight. Tilting her head to the sky, she took a deep breath and let the view of the endless blue sky seep into her senses. Lauren Darkwolf had been raised by parents who had instilled a deep respect and love for nature into their offspring, something she was very grateful for. Nothing centered her more than being surrounded by nature. Even while being in the city, Lauren only had to look at the ever changing sky to feel a quiet peace settle deep inside of her, forgetting about the traffic on the nearby turnpike or the stress of her job. She just soaked up the endlessness and with a small smile she noticed a red-tailed hawk, high in the sky.
“Good hunting,” she whispered, before getting inside her car and starting the engine.
Lauren had just eased her car into the rows of traffic on Memorial Road when her cell phone rang. Immediately, she felt her heart skip a beat, but when her eyes quickly scanned the phone’s display she could not help letting out a small sigh of disappointment. When she realized who the caller was, however, she smiled and pressed the ‘talk’ button.
“What a nice surprise,” she spoke into her headset, while her eyes never left the road in front of her. With its many businesses and restaurants, Memorial Road was always busy and one moment of inattentiveness could easily cause a lot of problems.
“Hello, Lauren,” Gertrude Jensen’s voice sounded warm and friendly. “I was just calling to find out how you’re doing. I haven’t heard from you in a while and no, e-mail doesn’t count.”
“I’ve been so busy, my head’s still spinning,” Lauren answered. “But, hopefully, I’ll get a few quiet days with nothing but paperwork ahead of me and who knows, Gertrude, I might even get some rest,” she added with a grin.
“I hope you’re right, sweetie. I promised your mother I’d keep an eye on you.”
“You what?” Lauren asked, her eyes wide in surprise. “When did you see my mother?”
“We talked, on the phone,” Gertrude answered. “We’ve been doing that ever since we met, in December. I like your mother, Lauren, she’s a wonderful person.”
“I like her too,” Lauren mumbled, still trying to process what Gertrude had just told her. Her parents lived near Grove, in the northeastern part of the state, about a three hour drive away from Oklahoma City, where Lauren lived. Her mother had never liked her being that far away and it made perfect sense she and Gertrude would come up with a plan to keep an eye on the youngest Darkwolf.
“So, you and my mother, huh?” Lauren drawled, but Gertrude could hear the amusement in her voice. “I should have known.”
“You’re too smart,” Gertrude laughed and Lauren smiled. Even though Gertrude Jensen was more than fifty years older than she was, they had become very good friends. Lauren admired the elderly woman for her spirit and wisdom and she found her look on life and sense of humor very refreshing.
“It’s only a matter of time before June and I will have Maureen on our side as well,” Gertrude continued, chuckling when she heard Lauren mumble something unintelligible. “What was that, dear?”
“I said you’re counting on something that might never happen,” Lauren answered, trying to keep her voice neutral, but Gertrude’s ears had picked up the undertone of sadness and, unseen to Lauren’s eyes, she leaned back in her chair and smiled.
“Lauren, honey, you’re not giving up already, are you?”
“I can’t give up on something that doesn’t exist,” Lauren sighed.
“Oh, but it’s there,” Gertrude smiled, realizing her young friend had to be very tired to respond in such a discouraged way. “It’s just that both of you have been so busy lately.” She paused for a moment, while quickly coming up with a plan.
“Why don’t you come over here? Let me feed you, so I know you’ll get a decent meal. You don’t have to stick around if you don’t feel up to it. After dinner, you can leave, go home and relax. How about it?”
“That’s sweet of you, Gertrude, but I...”
“But what? It’s no trouble, Lauren, believe me. Hannah and Nicky will be home in just a little while and with a little luck Rachel won’t be far behind. I’ve got plenty of help here. Besides, the girls would love to see you, it’s been a while. Nicky loves it when you tell her stories,” Gertrude played her trump card, which made Lauren burst out laughing.
“Alright, alright, you win. You play dirty though, you know that right?”
“How do you think I managed to live this long?” Gertrude quipped and Lauren could hear the smile in her voice. “Come whenever you’re ready and no, you don’t have to bring anything, just yourself.”
“And she’s a mind reader as well,” Lauren sighed. “Alright, I’ll see you in about an hour or so.”
“Thanks for humoring me, dear,” Gertrude spoke. “Drive safely.”
With an impatient gesture, Maureen Lawrence pushed back her long red hair, while her green eyes, shaded by a pair of dark sunglasses shot a tired glance at the digital clock of her car-radio. It had been a long week and she could not wait to go home, take a long shower and kick back in her favorite recliner to watch a movie or maybe even read a book. Ever since her divorce, it had been hard to be alone. The long hours at work and the recent assignment had kept her away from home a lot, which Maureen had not minded at all. They usually left her exhausted at the end of the day and every night Maureen welcomed the fatigue, letting it carry her into a deep sleep where there was no room for worrying thoughts or regrets.
Maureen sighed and cast a frustrated look at her cell phone that was cradled in its holder on the dashboard. It had been silent all afternoon. No word from Lauren at all. A sudden wave of sadness made her briefly close her eyes in order to fight the stinging sensations of tears welling up.
“I’m not going to cry,” Maureen muttered in a low voice, grinding her teeth in determination. “I’ve been doing that enough already.”
Letting out a long, shuddering breath, Maureen squared her shoulders and lifted her chin in an unconscious defiant gesture.
“I’ll have a decent meal in nice company, go home and relax. If Lauren DarkWolf thinks I’ll be sitting around pining for her, she’s dead wrong.”
Happy with her newfound optimism, Maureen steered her car through traffic, effectively pushing away images of a smiling, dark-eyed woman.
“My goodness, Granny, did you invite an entire army?” Hannah asked wide-eyed when she entered the kitchen.
“Hello, Dear,” Gertrude smiled, lovingly patting her granddaughter’s cheek when the blonde bent over to kiss her cheek. “How was your day?”
“It was busy,” Hannah sighed, kneeling down on the kitchen floor to untie Nicky’s shoes. The toddler loved to run around barefoot and Hannah had learned from experience that if she didn’t take off the little girl’s shoes, Nicky would do it herself and there would be no way to find out where the shoes would end up. “The best part of the day was actually clocking out and picking up this little rug rat,” Hannah added with a smile, giving the little girl a quick hug.
“Half a cookie,” Hannah decided, knowing her Grandmother already had the treat in her hand. “You’ll need to eat dinner soon, so we can’t fill up your belly with all those goodies,” she teased, tickling the toddler.
Nicky squealed and wiggled away from Hannah’s grip, running over to Gertrude to give the elderly lady a hug and to take possession of her cookie.
“I invited two guests,” Gertrude explained the presence of the large amount of food that was either being cooked, baked or fried.
“Lauren and Maureen?” Hannah asked with a twinkle in her eyes. She knew her grandmother was a little frustrated with their two friends. It was clear the two women were kept apart by their work, but even on their scarce days off they seemed to avoid each other, clearly afraid to explore the budding feelings between them.
“Are you playing matchmaker again?” Hannah smiled, pouring herself a glass of iced tea and sitting down at the kitchen table.
“No, sweetie, that’s not necessary. We all know they’re dancing around the subject. The match is made, they just need a good shove in the right direction.”
“How do you plan on doing that?”
“By having them at the same table for a change. We’ll take it from there.”
“You’re wicked,” Hannah chuckled, taking a sip from her tea. “Has Rachel called?”
“No, I haven’t heard from her.” Seeing the happy smile on the young blonde’s face, Gertrude chuckled. “I guess that’s a good thing then?”
“Very good,” Hannah nodded. “She said she’d call if she’d be running late. If she didn’t call, she might be home on time for a change.”
“Did that new Doctor start already?”
“Yes, he did, but Rachel wants to give him some time to get settled in. She’s afraid that if they overwork him now, he might run screaming. He seems to be doing a good job though, so hopefully she’ll get a little more breathing room soon.”
“And the three of you can take that vacation to the Texas coast?” Gertrude smiled, knowing how much Hannah was looking forward to that.
“Absolutely, Rachel and I are...” Hannah stopped in mid-sentence because she heard the garage door shut and, with sparkling eyes, she pushed back her chair. “Be right back, Granny,” she grinned, jumping up from her chair and heading towards the hallway.
“A honeymoon is not supposed to last longer than six weeks, maximum,” Gertrude called after the disappearing blonde. A loud snort, followed by a chuckle told her Hannah had heard her and, with a smile, Gertrude took a sip of her tea. She loved to tease her granddaughter, but, in the meantime, she made sure the young blonde knew how much joy it brought her to see Hannah so happy.
“Precious,” she whispered, while her mind traveled back to the problem Lauren and Maureen posed. And how to fix it.
An old Chevy Blazer carefully made its way down the road. The driver was familiar with the uneven surface and had no desire to shake and rattle the groceries that were stacked up in the back. Experience had learned a slow and easy approach usually brought the more delicate ware home in one piece. Dealing with dirt- and gravel roads was the price one paid when choosing to live in a remote area. Brown eyes took in the rolling hills and waving grass in which the wild flowers were starting to bloom. The view was worth having to drive down three miles of non-maintained road.
As soon as the car rounded the last corner, the driver smiled when the large dog slowly rose to its feet and its long, thick tail started a familiar wag. Immediately, the smile disappeared when eyes fell on the small bundle at the side of the road.
“What the heck?”
Pulling over, the driver killed the engine and quickly jumped out of the car, almost running to where the dog was still standing over the bundle, as if he was guarding it.
“Good boy,” Constance Perez mumbled, patting the large dog on his head. Her eyes though were focused on the bundle of fabric that, almost imperceptibly, seemed to move.
“Oh, Dios mio.” The woman swallowed hard and with trembling fingers she untied a loose knot, peeling back the rough-textured fabric to be able to peek inside. As soon as her eyes fell on the bundle’s content and her brain caught up with what her eyes were registering, she sank through her knees, not able to remain standing.
“Sweet Jesus,” she whispered, pushing a strand of black hair behind her ear. “I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to do something,” she whispered, while her eyes still rested on the bundle.
“Call the police,” she answered herself, pulling a cell phone from a clip on her belt. “Call 911.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Lauren mumbled when she entered the cul-de-sac where her friends were living. As soon as she had rounded the corner, her eyes had fallen on a familiar dark-green Jeep Liberty. “Gertrude, what are you doing?” she sighed.
For a brief moment, Lauren was tempted to put her car in reverse and back out of the street. She could always call Gertrude with some lame excuse. Of course, Maureen would probably see straight through that tactic. Especially, since the red-head exited her car and was staring at her with a mixture of surprise, joy and worry.
“Time to bite the bullet, Darkwolf,” Lauren told herself, parking her car behind Maureen’s and slowly getting out.
“Hey, I hadn’t expected you here,” she greeted the red-head with an insecure smile.
“Ditto,” Maureen answered, taking in the tall form in front of her with curious eyes. Lauren looked good, as usual, but Maureen also noticed the tired lines around her eyes and the way the dark eyes were avoiding hers.
“How have you been?” she asked in a soft voice, not aware of how the sun was painting her hair into a golden red. Lauren did notice though and, all of a sudden, she sent Maureen a warm smile, happy to see the other woman and pushing away the questions as to why.
“I’m good,” she nodded. “I’m tired, but good. I’m done with that meth-lab bust we did the other day. By the way, thanks for defending me,” she added, knowing Maureen would understand what she was referring to.
“That guy is something else,” Maureen nodded with a chuckle. “He once pulled a knife on me, the idiot. When he was yelling you had beat him up, I knew it wasn’t true. I only had to remind him about our previous encounter and how it had added to his time in the can to make him rethink his actions.”
“Well, I’m grateful because I wasn’t exactly looking forward to all the paperwork.”
“Ugh,” Maureen pulled a face and laughed, which made her look a lot more relaxed and younger.
“So, Gertrude lured you into a home-made dinner as well, huh?” Lauren smiled, suppressing the urge to reach out and pull the other woman into her arms. Maureen looked like she could use a hug. But fear took over immediately and, with a small sigh of defeat, Lauren shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
“Yes, she did,” Maureen nodded, while they slowly made their way up the driveway. “I love her cooking,” she added with a grin. “And it’s nice to see the girls again. It’s been too long.”
“That it has,” Lauren nodded. “We work too hard.”
“I know. I’m planning to change that though. I need a vacation.” And guess who’ll be coming with me, although she doesn’t know that yet.
“I guess I do, too. But there’s always something that comes up. I’ve been promising my family for months to come home for a week or so.”
“Do you miss them?” Maureen asked, glancing at the strong profile of the taller woman next to her. She knew that, as a rule, Lauren did not like questions that were personal, but that was one thing that had changed between them over the last few months; Lauren was willing to get personal, to a certain extent. It was something Maureen saw as a huge victory and as a step in the right direction. Winning Lauren Darkwolf over would be a long process that would require patience and determination and Maureen had sworn herself she would acquire and cultivate both qualities. It would be worth it.
“The kids grow up so fast,” Lauren sighed. “My sister-in-law emailed me last week to tell me Joshua took his first steps. The last time I saw him, he could hardly stand up by himself. I haven’t seen any of them in months.”
Maureen stopped in front of the door and half-turned so she could look at Lauren whose dark eyes held a mixture of regret and sadness.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
Lauren’s eyes were captured by a pair of sparkling green ones and immediately she felt her heart flutter in her chest.
“I’m not sure. There are still some reports I need to finish and...”
“And they’ll grow legs and walk off when you don’t?” Maureen asked with raised eyebrows.
“I wish,’ Lauren answered with a soft chuckle.
Maureen smiled and, in an impulsive gesture put her hand on Lauren’s arm, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“Go home,” she urged. “Leave early in the morning, so you’ll be there around noon. Come back Sunday evening. Spend some time with your family before they disown you,” she added jokingly. “It’s time to take some time for yourself, Lauren. Even you need to relax from time to time.”
“What that does mean?” Lauren asked with a frown.
“It means you’re human,” Maureen answered. “You’re so damn conscientious when it comes to work. It’s good to be loyal, Lauren, but you know as well as I do that there’s always something. If it isn’t a drug-bust, it’s a murder or fraud or identity theft. We finish one case and before we can take a breath, we’re in the middle of a new one. Your paperwork will wait, believe me. It will be there on Monday morning, whether you like it or not, but I bet it will be easier to deal with it after you’ve spent some time with your family.”
Lauren’s dark eyes were pensive when she stared at the red-head who was looking back at her with a fiery glare in her eyes. It made them look even greener and, inwardly, Lauren smiled. She wondered if Maureen knew how attractive she was.
Her friend was right though, Lauren knew, facing work next week would be so much easier if she would be able to go home, if only for a day or so. She did not have to consider Maureen’s words for long.
“You’re absolutely right and I think I’ll follow your advice,” she smiled. “All that paperwork can wait, I’m going home in the morning.”
“Good,” Maureen nodded with a small smile. Sometimes it sucked to be selfless. How easy would it have been to ask Lauren to spend some time together, since, for a change, they were both in town at the same time. But she cared for the tall, dark-haired woman and she knew how much she missed her family. Maybe next weekend...
“Come with me,” Lauren’s voice penetrated Maureen’s darkening thoughts and, startled, the red-haired woman looked up.
“Come with me,” Lauren repeated, while her dark eyes searched Maureen’s eyes for an answer. “My family likes you and besides, that lecture you just gave me applies to you as well.”
“Oh, ha ha,” Maureen snorted, laughing when she noticed the twinkle in Lauren’s eyes.
“You know I’m right,” Lauren gently teased.
Maureen nodded and she cast down her eyes. She felt like she could drown in the warm brown of Lauren’s gaze, but that was something she could not allow herself to do. It was too dangerous.
“I...I’ve got a lot of things to do and...”
“Will those things grow legs and run off?” Lauren interrupted in a soft voice, smiling knowingly when Maureen looked at her like a deer that was caught in the headlights. The red-head was about to reply when they both heard somebody opening the door they were standing in front of. It saved Maureen from answering Lauren, but the dark Agent winked at her and just before the door was opened she whispered:”We’ll talk about it later.”
“Lauwen, Lauwen,” Nicky cried enthusiastically when her favorite playmate entered the room.
With a chuckle, Lauren knelt down and opened her arms to the toddler, who threw herself into the warm embrace with reckless abandon.
“Umph,” Lauren breathed when she caught the little spitfire. “Look at you,” she laughed, tossing Nicky up in the air. “You’ve grown. But you still have a problem with the ‘r’, haven’t you?” she smiled, hearing Rachel chuckle behind her.
“I think it’s cute,” Maureen spoke, while her eyes absorbed the happy scene in front of her.
“It won’t be when she’s sixteen,” Gertrude spoke, drawing a laugh from Hannah, who motioned Maureen to take a seat at the huge kitchen table.
“She’ll learn fast enough, Granny. Before you know it, she’ll be asking Rachel for the car keys.” the blonde spoke.
“Isn’t that the truth,” Gertrude mumbled, winking at her granddaughter. She took a seat across from Maureen and sent the red-head a warm smile.
“How have you been, sweetheart? It’s been such a long time we’ve seen you and Lauren. Has work been that busy?”
“Crazy,” Maureen nodded. “The last few weeks I’ve been traveling all over the State and I’ve hardly been home. I’m really looking forward to some time off.”
Gertrude’s eyes took in the face of the woman who was sitting opposite her and she slowly nodded. The fatigue showed in Maureen’s face; it was visible in the small lines around her eyes and the tired look in her green eyes.
“You look like you could use some rest,” Gertrude continued. “Do you have the weekend off?”
Before Maureen could answer, Lauren, who was carrying a squealing Nicky in her arms, sat down next to her and answered for her.
“She’s off,” Lauren nodded. “And she does look like she needs some rest. I’ve been trying to tell her that,” she continued, giving the red-head a gentle nudge with her shoulder.
“Listen who’s talking,” Maureen softly snorted, nudging Lauren back. The dark-haired woman chuckled, pleased with Maureen’s playful reaction. It almost made her feel giddy to see the sparkle return in her friend’s green eyes. She had missed her during the last few weeks in which they had both been so incredibly busy. Sitting next to Maureen, with Nicky in her lap, Lauren felt relaxed for the first time in a long while.
“You look like you need some serious R&R yourself,” Gertrude smiled, pleased to see the two women sit so close together. Watching their interaction strengthened her belief Lauren and Maureen needed to be together and she was determined to give them a gentle push in the right direction, if needed, like she had done with Hannah and Rachel.
“I’m going home this weekend,” Lauren answered with a warm smile. “Someone twisted my arm,” she continued with a sideway glance. “Although I’ll have to admit it didn’t hurt.”
Maureen chuckled and she needed all her willpower not to lean against the taller woman next to her. It was so tempting to lean a little closer to seek the warmth she could feel radiating off Lauren’s bare arms and through the cotton shirt she was wearing. By the way Lauren had pulled her long, dark hair back in a braid, Maureen knew the other woman had enjoyed a shower before she had made her way to Gertrude’s house. The combined scent of Lauren’s shower-gel and very light perfume made her heart skip a beat and it was all Maureen could do not to let out a frustrated moan. Why did Lauren Darkwolf have to be so darn attractive? And why did she have to smell so great?
“Are you alright?” a gentle voice suddenly interrupted her thoughts and when Maureen looked up it was in a pair of friendly blue eyes.
“Yes, yes, I was just...um...zoning out, I guess,” she stammered, sending Hannah an apologetic look. “By the way, I like your hair,” she quickly changed the subject. “Are you letting it grow out?”
“A little,” Hannah answered with a smile, raking her fingers through her blond hair. “But, knowing me, I’ll get fed up with it soon enough and have it chopped.”
“Hannah’s pwetty,” Nicky remarked, sending the blonde a beaming smile from the confines of Lauren’s arms.
“She sure is,” the dark-haired Agent smiled. “So are you, little Missy.” She tickled the toddler, who squirmed on her lap, while giggling loudly.
“Mommy too,” Nicky managed to cry out.
“Yup, Mommy’s pretty too,” Lauren laughed, winking at Rachel who was standing behind Hannah, looking at their daughter with an indulgent smile. Playing with Nicky made her realize how much she missed her nieces and nephews. The idea of seeing them again soon was exhilarating.
“And Gwandma,” Nicky continued. “And Lauwen and Mauween.”
“Yup, let’s not forget Grandma and Maureen,” Lauren nodded while she glanced aside to the red-head, who turned her head and looked at Lauren with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s true,” Lauren nodded. “Tell her, Nicky.”
“Mauween is pwetty,” Nicky obediently repeated. “Weally,” she added with a nod.
Maureen laughed and reached out a hand to cup the little girl’s cheek. She leaned forward and dropped a kiss on her silky, dark hair.
“Thank you, sweetie,” she whispered, acutely aware of Lauren’s close presence. When she lifted her head their gazes locked and Maureen could feel her heart skip a beat when she noticed the intensity in the other woman’s eyes. For a brief moment, it felt like the world stood still, but then Lauren gave her an almost imperceptible nod, accompanied by a small smile and Maureen slowly exhaled. She felt a flush creep up her cheeks when she realized Lauren’s stare had almost made her forget where she was. She had been so very close to leaning forward and kissing the dark-haired woman on the lips.
Maureen took a deep breath in an effort to calm her racing heart and when she looked up it was straight into Gertrude’s clear blue eyes. The elderly lady had noticed the exchange and, for a moment, Maureen was afraid she would say something about it, but to her relief, Gertrude sent her an encouraging smile, before turning her attention to Rachel.
“How was your day, sweetheart?” she asked with genuine interest.
“Pretty busy,” Rachel answered with an answering smile. “It’s amazing how many drugged-out teenagers we’ve been getting lately,” she said, while shaking her head in disbelief.
“What kind of drugs?” Lauren and Maureen asked simultaneously, the latter one rolling her eyes at her friend.
“Mostly Meth,” Rachel answered, taking a seat next to Hannah and draping her arm around the backrest of her lover’s chair. “Yesterday, I saw a nineteen year old, a student, whose friend had convinced him to try some home-made stuff, probably some meth or xtc. When he came in his heart rate was 155,” Rachel sighed. “He was gasping for breath and before we could stabilize him, he went into cardiac arrest,” she added, shaking her head. “Can you believe that? Nineteen years old?”
“Did he make it?” Maureen asked with a frown.
“So far,” Rachel answered. “He’s in the CCU, on a ventilator. It’s anybody’s guess how he’ll come out of it, if he does at all, that is. I hate that stuff,” she muttered. “I see so many lives destroyed because of it.”
“We’re working on shutting them down and, so far, it’s been quite a success,” Maureen replied.
“I know, I read that in the paper the other day,” Rachel nodded. “I’m glad, I really am. You guys do a great job.”
“We try,” Lauren sighed, remembering the skittish, hollow-eyed teen she had arrested the previous day. The boy had been so bone-thin Lauren had been hesitant to touch him, afraid she would hurt him if she did. But she had to put him in cuffs, because he had been part of a small group of young people who had created a meth-lab in the backyard of one of them. One look at him and she had known he needed medical attention, but he had tried to resist arrest and had left her no choice but hand-cuff him and put him in the back of a police-cruiser. He had hardly been able to stand up by himself, but when one of the uniformed officers had lead him away, he had violently cursed Lauren.
“Are you okay?” a gentle voice next to her softly asked.
“Just peachy,” Lauren smiled at Maureen. “Enough shop talk, what have you guys been up to?” the dark-haired woman asked sending Hannah and Rachel a warm smile.
Lauren’s dark eyes traveled back to Maureen and she sent the red-haired woman a barely visible wink. Maureen saw a flicker of mischief in her friend’s eyes and she let out a soft chuckle. It had been a very obvious change of topic, but their friends did not seem to mind at all. It was clear Lauren really wanted to relax and talking about work would have the opposite effect, on both of them.
“Smart ass,” Maureen whispered.
Lauren just grinned and turned her attention back to Rachel and Hannah, smiling when she felt Maureen lean in a little closer.
“Make sure noone crosses that tape and I mean, noone,” a gray-haired men spoke in a solemn voice while pulling his hat deeper over his eyes. “This is way over our head. I’ll have to call for help on this one.”
The young Deputy Sheriff, who was standing next to the older man nodded his head, not able to let his eyes travel to the area that had been cordoned off with the well-known yellow crime scene tape and that was being illuminated by the bright floodlights on the police-cruiser’s roof. He had been the first one to arrive at the scene, since he had only been a few miles away when the call had come in. At first it had been hard to fully understand the distraught woman who had placed the call, but after she had practically dragged him to the scene, all of a sudden his training had kicked in and he had quickly called all the appropriate departments, starting a wave of activity that would eventually reach all corners of the state.
“Are you okay?” the gray-haired man asked, just before he turned to walk away. He had known the young Deputy since he was a toddler and the paleness of his face, combined with the perspiration on his upper lip and forehead had not escaped his eyes.
“I...I’m fine, sir,” the young man nodded with more confidence than he felt. Involuntarily, his eyes traveled to the area beside him, resting on the bulky, cloth covered form on the side of the road. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath, fighting the bile that rose in the back of his throat.
“You did a good job, Henderson,” the older man spoke with a nod, before turning around and walking back to the police-cruiser.
Deputy Henderson’s eyes followed his superior officer to the car, wishing he had never received the call, no matter how good a job he might have done. He knew the images that had entered his brain that late afternoon would stay there forever, although he would never admit that. He had to tough it out and pretend the horror of it all had not affected him. He knew he was just a small-town cop, but the people in the area counted on him to do a good job, even if the most important thing he did was writing the occasional speeding ticket. He could not afford to be afraid, especially not now, when evil had entered his jurisdiction.
To be continued
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